God, Germs, and Evolution: Belief in Unobservable Religious and Scientific Entities in the U.S. and China

  • Jennifer M. CleggEmail author
  • Yixin K. Cui
  • Paul L. Harris
  • Kathleen H. Corriveau
Regular Article


Adults in the U.S. and China were asked to make judgments about the existence of a variety of scientific and religious entities, including God, germs, and evolution. Overall, participants expressed more confidence in the existence of scientific as compared to religious entities. This differential confidence in the two domains emerged in China as well as in the U.S. Moreover, it emerged even when participants were questioned about items attracting a lower overall level of consensus. Nevertheless, the religious beliefs of individual participants moderated the degree of differentiation between scientific and religious entities. Adults reporting low levels of religiosity expressed greater belief in the existence of scientific than religious entities but adults reporting high levels of religiosity expressed equivalent levels of belief in the existence of each domain. This pattern emerged in both China and the U.S. Testimony about unobservable phenomena has a similar impact on adults’ pattern of beliefs across two historically distinct cultures.


Belief Cross-cultural Religion Scientific entities 



This study was funded by the John Templeton Foundation (59820).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Clegg declares that she has no conflict of interest. Cui declares that she has no conflict of interest. Harris declares that he has no conflict of interest. Corriveau declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTexas State UniversitySan MarcosUSA
  2. 2.Wheelock College of Education and Human DevelopmentBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  3. 3.Graduate School of EducationHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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